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Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV; Cộng hòa Xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam), is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. With an estimated 90.3 million inhabitants as of 2012, it is the world's 13th-most-populous country, and the eighth-most-populous Asian country. The name Vietnam translates as "Southern Viet" (synonymous with the much more ancient term Nam Viet), and was first officially adopted in 1802 by Emperor Gia Long and again in 1945 with the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh. The country is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea to the east.[8] Its capital city has been Hanoi since the reunification of North and South Vietnam in 1976.

The Vietnamese became independent from Imperial China in 938 AD, following the resounding Vietnamese victory in the Battle of Bạch Đằng River. Successive Vietnamese royal dynasties flourished as the nation expanded geographically and politically into Southeast Asia, until the Indochina Peninsula was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. Following a Japanese occupation in the 1940s, the Vietnamese fought French rule in the First Indochina War, eventually expelling the French in 1954. Thereafter, Vietnam was divided politically into two rival states, North and South Vietnam. Conflict between the two sides intensified, with heavy foreign intervention, during the Vietnam War, which ended with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.

Vietnam was then unified under a Communist government, but was politically isolated and impoverished. In 1986, the government initiated a series of economic and political reforms, which began Vietnam's path towards integration into the world economy.[9] By 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with most nations. Vietnam's economic growth has been among the highest in the world since 2000,[9] and in 2011 it had the highest Global Growth Generators Index among 11 major economies.[10] Its successful economic reforms resulted in it joining the World Trade Organization in 2007. However, the country still suffers from relatively high levels of income inequality, disparities in healthcare provision, and poor gender equality.

Geography

Vietnam is located on the eastern Indochina Peninsula between the latitudes and 24°N, and the longitudes 102° and 110°E. It covers a total area of approximately 331,210 km2 (127,881 sq mi),[2] making it almost the size of Germany. The combined length of the country's land boundaries is 4,639 km (2,883 mi), and its coastline is 3,444 km (2,140 mi) long.[2] Vietnam's land is mostly hilly and densely forested, with level land covering no more than 20%. Mountains account for 40% of the country's land area, and tropical forests cover around 42%.

The northern part of the country consists mostly of highlands and the Red River Delta. Phan Xi Păng, located in Lào Cai Province, is the highest mountain in Vietnam, standing 3,143 m (10,312 ft) high. Southern Vietnam is divided into coastal lowlands, the mountains of the Annamite Range, and extensive forests. Comprising five relatively flat plateaus of basalt soil, the highlands account for 16% of the country's arable land and 22% of its total forested land. The soil in much of southern Vietnam is relatively poor in nutrients.

The Red River Delta, a flat, roughly triangular region covering 15,000 km2 (5,792 sq mi),[99] is smaller but more intensely developed and more densely populated than the Mekong River Delta. Once an inlet of the Gulf of Tonkin, it has been filled in over the millennia by riverine alluvial deposits. The delta, covering about 40,000 km2 (15,444 sq mi), is a low-level plain no more than 3 meters (9.8 ft) above sea level at any point. It is criss-crossed by a maze of rivers and canals, which carry so much sediment that the delta advances 60 to 80 meters (196.9 to 262.5 ft) into the sea every year.

Climate

Because of differences in latitude and the marked variety in topographical relief, the climate tends to vary considerably from place to place. During the winter or dry season, extending roughly from November to April, the monsoon winds usually blow from the northeast along the Chinese coast and across the Gulf of Tonkin, picking up considerable moisture. Consequently, the winter season in most parts of the country is dry only by comparison with the rainy or summer season. The average annual temperature is generally higher in the plains than in the mountains, and higher in the south than in the north. Temperatures vary less in the southern plains around Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, ranging between 21 and 28 °C (69.8 and 82.4 °F) over the course of the year. Seasonal variations in the mountains and plateaus and in the north are much more dramatic, with temperatures varying from 5 °C (41.0 °F) in December and January to 37 °C (98.6 °F) in July and August.


Economy

In 2012, Vietnam's nominal GDP reached US$138 billion, with a nominal GDP per capita of $1,527, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).[3] According to a December 2005 forecast by Goldman Sachs, the Vietnamese economy will become the world's 17th-largest by 2025, with an estimated nominal GDP of $436 billion and a nominal GDP per capita of $4,357.[103] According to a 2008 forecast by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Vietnam may be the fastest-growing of the world's emerging economies by 2025, with a potential growth rate of almost 10% per annum in real dollar terms.[104] In 2012, HSBC predicted that Vietnam's total GDP would surpass those of Norway, Singapore and Portugal by 2050.[105]

Vietnam has been, for much of its history, a predominantly agricultural civilization based on wet rice cultivation. There is also an industry for Bauxite mining in Vietnam, an important material for the production of aluminum. However, the Vietnam War destroyed much of the country's agrarian economy, leading the post-war government to implement a planned economy to revitalize agriculture and industrialize the nation. The collectivization of farms, factories and economic capital was implemented, and millions of people were put to work in government programs. For a decade following the Vietnam War, Vietnam's economy was plagued with inefficiency and corruption in state programs, poor quality and underproduction, and restrictions on economic activity. It also suffered from the post-war trade embargo instituted by the United States and most of Europe. These problems were compounded by the erosion of the Soviet bloc, which included Vietnam's main trading partners, in the late 1980s.

In 1986, the Sixth National Congress of the Communist Party introduced socialist-oriented market economic reforms as part of the Đổi Mới reform program. Private ownership was encouraged in industries, commerce and agriculture.[106] Thanks largely to these reforms, Vietnam achieved around 8% annual GDP growth between 1990 to 1997, and the economy continued to grow at an annual rate of around 7% from 2000 to 2005, making Vietnam one of the world's fastest growing economies. Growth remained strong even in the face of the late-2000s global recession, holding at 6.8% in 2010, but Vietnam's year-on-year inflation rate hit 11.8% in December 2010, according to a GSO estimate. The Vietnamese dong was devalued three times in 2010 alone.[107]

Manufacturing, information technology and high-tech industries now form a large and fast-growing part of the national economy. Though Vietnam is a relative newcomer to the oil industry, it is currently the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia, with a total 2011 output of 318,000 barrels per day (50,600 m3/d).[108] In 2010, Vietnam was ranked as the 8th largest crude petroleum producers in the Asia and Pacific region.[109] Like its Chinese neighbors, Vietnam continues to make use of centrally planned economic five-year plans.

Deep poverty, defined as the percentage of the population living on less than $1 per day, has declined significantly in Vietnam, and the relative poverty rate is now less than that of China, India, and the Philippines.[110] This decline in the poverty rate can be attributed to equitable economic policies aimed at improving living standards and preventing the rise of inequality; these policies have included egalitarian land distribution during the initial stages of the Đổi Mới program, investment in poorer remote areas, and subsidizing of education and healthcare.[111] According to the IMF, the unemployment rate in Vietnam stood at 4.46% in 2012.

 
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